Same issues, same candidatesI find myself looking at both the calendar and the time quite a bit lately. I wish everyone in Wisconsin would.
By: By Mike Nichols, Superior Telegram
I find myself looking at both the calendar and the time quite a bit lately. I wish everyone in Wisconsin would.
It’s not that I’m always a punctual guy. I’m not, as Kathleen Falk knows. I had coffee with Falk not long ago — before she lost the Democratic primary for governor — and I was late. She was gracious about it, and that was only one of the reasons I liked her.
I liked that she even wanted to have coffee with me at all after I wrote a column questioning her vision. I liked that, although she built her early career on being pretty extreme on environmental issues, she actually didn’t have cattails and cherry blossoms shooting out of her head. I especially liked how she was clear about why she thought Wisconsin needed a recall election.
She believed that Scott Walker was not upfront about his plans to essentially eliminate collective bargaining. And the fact he wasn’t “is why he is being recalled,” she told me.
Not really, it turns out.
Immediately after Tom Barrett beat Falk in the Democratic primary the other night, before the sun even came up the next morning, Barrett’s campaign issued a press release calling on Walker to “join him in four debates in four weeks — focusing on jobs.” The release mentioned the words “job” or “jobs” no less than nine times. The words “collective bargaining”? Zero.
The upcoming June 5 gubernatorial election is going to be just like the last one in November 2010. Same candidates. Same five issues. “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”
That’s a direct quote, by the way, that I wrote down while watching Tom Barrett campaign in Sheboygan. In 2010. But it might as well have been yesterday.
Barrett is campaigning on the fact Wisconsin lost more jobs than any state in the nation in 2011 — a charge to which Walker typically responds by pointing to job loss in Milwaukee and by focusing on more recent job gains.
There’s only one problem with the focus of both — and it has nothing to do with whose policies are right or wrong. It has to do with the science of economics and timing. It has to do with calendars, and the apparent lack of them in this state.
We’re having another election in four weeks on the same issue that dominated the last one just a little while ago — even though both common sense and the economists say that it takes quite a bit of time for policy changes to have an impact for either better or worse.
“If you were to divorce yourself from the Wisconsin scene and ask yourself rhetorically what is the timeline when you pull these fiscal levers and hope to see results, you usually get the answer twelve to eighteen months,” said David Ward, the chief executive officer of NorthStar Consulting Group in Madison.
The current governor was sworn in on Jan. 2, 2011. He didn’t sign his budget until the end of June — less than twelve months ago. Changes in collective bargaining became law around that same time but newly required contributions from state employees for health and pension benefits weren’t deducted from paychecks until starting in late August — nine months ago. Neither citizens nor businesses really felt changes on property tax and income tax bills until even more recently.
If Walker loses on June 5, his tenure as governor will last only about seventeen months.
If Barrett wins, meanwhile, he could take office just as soon as the Government Accountability Board issues a certificate of election.
He could be the new governor of the state of Wisconsin for at least several days, I figure, before the Department of Workforce Development releases its monthly preliminary jobs data on June 14.
Just in time, under the current rules of Wisconsin politics, to have an impact.
Mike Nichols is a syndicated columnist who spent 18 years writing about Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is now a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. This column represents only his personal opinion. Contact him at MRNichols@wi.rr.com.